December 02, 2005

The bigger the word, the bigger the brain? Hardly

I may be repeating myself here and I am prepared to take that risk (even if I am too lazy to search my own archieves to check). Let's start with one simple proposition that I hope we can all agree on: English is a beautiful and expressive language. It is also a large language and, at times, a very elastic language, growing all the time. Its also a lot of fun.

Sometimes, it is used poorly. Sometimes it is used pretentiously, to make the speaker appear either smarter or better educated than the speaker really is. It is this to which I address my objections today.

Let's begin with a common and annoying mistake.

Method and methodology are not synonyms.

Method is, according to Answer. com (not better or worse than any other place to go for a definition): "A means or manner of procedure, especially a regular and systematic way of accomplishing something".

Methodology is: "A body of practices, procedures, and rules used by those who work in a discipline or engage in an inquiry; a set of working methods".

See the difference? See why saying methodology, because it sounds more important since its longer and since it has that nifty "logy" ending, does not make you sound smarter? Method is a perfectly nice word, a good word, even. even has a helpful usage note on this point:

USAGE NOTE Methodology can properly refer to the theoretical analysis of the methods appropriate to a field of study or to the body of methods and principles particular to a branch of knowledge. In this sense, one may speak of objections to the methodology of a geographic survey (that is, objections dealing with the appropriateness of the methods used) or of the methodology of modern cognitive psychology (that is, the principles and practices that underlie research in the field). In recent years, however, methodology has been increasingly used as a pretentious substitute for method in scientific and technical contexts, as in The oil company has not yet decided on a methodology for restoring the beaches. People may have taken to this practice by influence of the adjective methodological to mean “pertaining to methods.” Methodological may have acquired this meaning because people had already been using the more ordinary adjective methodical to mean “orderly, systematic.” But the misuse of methodology obscures an important conceptual distinction between the tools of scientific investigation (properly methods) and the principles that determine how such tools are deployed and interpreted.

Let us turn our attention to another confusing substitution we often see: difference and differential. They do not mean the same thing.

Difference: "The quality or condition of being unlike or dissimilar."

Differential: "Of, relating to, or showing a difference"

Again, see the difference? One is the whole shooting match and the other is, basically, the measurement of the difference. People can't tell the difference between red and blue when they are color blind. Good. People can't tell the differential between red and blue, etc. Bad.

“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’”

Rant concluded. Please go about your normal activities. Nothing to see here. Move along, move along. My medication ought to be kicking it any second now, and when it does, I am certain it will be impactful*.

*Another time, soon, we will talk about these horrid creations. Impactful. *shudder*

Posted by Random Penseur at December 2, 2005 10:21 AM | TrackBack

Impactful: adj. Describing a painful oral condition.

Did I get it right? ;)

Posted by: Jim at December 2, 2005 01:31 PM

A gentleman at my place of employment uses this mind-numbing horror on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis:

"We should have picked up on that. There were tattle-tale signs everywhere."


Posted by: Jennifer at December 2, 2005 02:08 PM

One could posit that the person at Jennifer's place of employment may be called many things, but hardly a gentleman...
My latest pet peeve: "That's a great starting point. Now we need to flush it out". Not only big words are misused...

Posted by: GrammarQueen at December 2, 2005 03:49 PM

It's all I can do to keep from bashing my head on the keyboard when I see "definitely" spelled "definately".

Same for using "reigns" instead of "reins", i.e., "pulling in the reigns". NO NO NO! It's "reins"! REINS!

Oh and "Irregardless". Don't get me started...

OH! WAIT! Mission Statement! "Here is our Mission Statement". Remember those? GAHHHH!

Posted by: Amber at December 2, 2005 04:57 PM

"Utilize" instead of "use."

"Dialogue" (as a verb) rather than "speak" or "talk."

Posted by: JohnL at December 2, 2005 05:56 PM

"Architected"...I don't even think it's a real word. The team 'architected' a solution for the problem we were having.

I know an incredibly bright woman who uses the word 'sale' incorrectly. "After the first of the year, I'm going to sale my vehicle." I thought it was a one time thing, but she's used it several times.

Posted by: Howard at December 3, 2005 09:14 AM

My biggest pet peeve is when people use "either" when they mean "each". Example: "I'm going to put an end table at either side of the sofa," when they actually mean that they are putting an end table at each side; two end tables. "Either" mean one or the other, dagnabbit!

Posted by: Tuning Spork at December 3, 2005 03:27 PM

"Irregardless" ... AAAAARRRRGGH!!!!

Posted by: Cathy at December 3, 2005 11:59 PM

"Marketing speak" is the absolute worst: "I'm going to task this to you and check in on it next week"

What they should have said was "I'm going to give you this task... " I almost flip whenever I hear that shit.

Posted by: Oorgo at December 6, 2005 01:31 AM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?